Anti-Semitism in Europe

While all eyes in relation to anti-Semitism are turned towards the Polish attempt to absolve themselves of any guilt in the massacres of Jews that took -place during WWII in Poland, there are other European countries where anti-Semitism is on the rise.

There were no less than three reports in The Jerusalem Post on Friday related to anti-Semitism.  The most ominous report is that the Community Security Trust, an organisation that provides security to Britain’s Jews and gathers statistics, reported that there was a 30% increase in violent anti-Semitic attacks in 2016 compared to 2015 and a further 3% increase in 2017.  The reported extent of purely verbal anti-Semitic abuse has also risen sharply.

In a separate article, it was reported that Chelsea Football Club is taking extraordinary measures to try to reduce the amount of anti-Semitism that is a regular feature of chants and slogans during matches there.  They have used the pre-game session to try to instil opposition to anti-Semitism by using banners and videos of players and well-known personalities, many of whom are not Jewish, to decry anti-Semitism.  However few believe that this will solve the problem of ingrained anti-Semitism in the British people.  Anti-Semitic chants will probably continue to be a mainstay of all soccer matches in Britain.

No less a person than the French Prime Minister, Edouard Phillipe, stated “there is a new form of brutal and violent anti-Semitism” in France.  This after an 8 year of Jewish boy was brutally attacked in Sarcelles by two 15 year olds, and in a separate incident a Jewish girl’s face was slashed with a knife.  Of course, before that there have been numerous attacks against Jewish individuals, including the callous murder of an elderly Jewish lady in her home and the torture and murder of a French Jew, both of them coincidentally named Halimi.  The French Government lacks the ability to prevent such crimes, when there are right-wing, left-wing and Islamic anti-Semites active in France.

It used to be fashionable to believe that if there was democracy and education, such ancient prejudices as anti-Semitism would wither away.  But, that has certainly not been the case.  People feel free to attack Jews verbally and physically, when they would not attack blacks or other peoples in the same way.  Once again anti-Semitism, in various forms, is both fashionable and politically correct.  I suffered from anti-Semitic attacks, mostly verbal, when I grew up in the UK in the 1950s, so I am not surprised by these reports.  I decided then that there was no way that it could be eradicated, so I left.  I am very happy now that I live in Israel, where we can counter-attack the local anti-Semites as they try to attack us.

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Genetically Modified Foods

All human foods that come from plants are genetically modified (GM).  What do I mean by this statement?  I mean that all plant foods that are mass-produced throughout the world for food (wheat, corn, barley, rice, vegetables, fruits, etc.) have been selected by humans over time and/or modified by chemical or other procedures.   The simplest form of genetic selection is that a farmer will select seeds from the most productive plants or fields to grow a more productive crop (i.e more tons per acre).

Another way that farmers have used from the beginning of farming is to supply various fertilizers and even more recently to add various bacterial strains that produce greater yields.  The current crops of cereal plants are so removed from their origins that they can be unrecognizable, with much larger edible sections and hundreds of times more nutrients and they are unable to reproduce themselves, with no viable seed dispersal means without human intervention.  Thus, the current development of GM crops using methods of molecular biology is merely a more efficient way of selecting crop seeds for greater yields with superior insect resistance.

This article is based on a talk that Irwin Weintraub, an agronomist, gave at the English Speaking Seniors Discussion Group in Beer Sheva, in which he showed a short video (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqJAeReFr8I) by Nina Fedoroff, a leading geneticist and molecular biologist, who has written a book entitled “Mendel in the Kitchen.”   In this she points out that the prediction by Robert Malthus, a British scholar who wrote a book in 1798 entitled “An Essay on the Principle of Population,” that the exponential increase in population growth would outpace the ability to grow enough food to feed them, has not come to pass.  In fact, as time has gone on, the selection of plants, improved fertilizers, improved irrigation and mechanized agricultural production have produced more food than is needed by the current world’s population.  All over the world supermarkets are packed with a huge variety of foods because of the wonderful advances in production and distribution.  The main current problem is not the lack of production of food but rather that the cost is too high for many people to be able to afford it.

In other words, we need to produce food more efficiently in order that the price does not rise, but goes down, so that more people can afford the food.  This requires not only the most efficient selection of food seeds, but also the use of more efficient means to prevent the decimation of corps by bugs and micro-organisms.  For example, if there had been a means to prevent the potato blight that caused great famine in Ireland in the years 1845-49, then millions of lives would have been saved and the history of Ireland would have been quite different.  Now this can be done with genetic modification.

Similarly, massive famines in the far east, particularly China, were caused by failures in the rice crop.  There are two ways to avoid this, prevent the population from increasing so fast or increase the yield of rice per acre.  The Communist Governments first used the population control method, now they are using the production of improved yield rice.  The Green Revolution that occurred between the 1930’s and the 1960’s resulted from the development of high yield varieties of cereal crops.  Norman Borlaug is credited with pioneering this approach, which saved billions of lives, and he received the Nobel Prize in 1970.  These crops were selected genetic hybrids.

There is a current fad of eating only organically grown (OG) food.  This is a retrogressive step often taken by so-called progressive people in the belief that these foods will be superior to those grown with advanced selected varieties, modern fertilizers, pesticides and even GM.  But, there is no evidence that these OG foods have any advantage as far as nutrition and safety are concerned over regularly grown crops.  Further OG requires old-fashioned manure that is far less efficient than modern fertilizers and with less pest control, much more of the OG crop is wasted.  Given the rapid increase in the world’s population the move to OG products would result in more people dying of famine.

There is no evidence after 30 years of production, testing and use that any GM product is dangerous for human consumption.  In fact, one wouldn’t expect it to be, because the genes that are transferred from one organism to another to produce an improved crop, either for greater yield or pest resistance, have no direct effect on humans.  The changes are so selective and minute that such dangers are highly unlikely.  Furthermore, genes are transferred between organisms all the time.  Portions of the human genome is now known to have originated from viruses and bacteria, and indeed there are such things as “jumping genes” known as transposons discovered by Barbara McClintock who won the Nobel Prize in 1983 for her work.  The fear that genes from GM plants will spread to other organisms is misplaced, since genes do transfer between species as a natural process in evolution.  So to conclude, GM is the only way to increase the yield of crops in order to feed the world’s growing population.

Trump’s SOTU Speech

President Trump gave his first State of the Union speech to Congress one year after taking office.  I watched the whole speech.  This was not high-flying oratory, it was not articulate or memorable phraseology, as we have heard before.  But, it was nevertheless a great speech, why?  Because it was measured, deliberate and policy-based.  The overall approach was patriotic and pragmatic.  He outlined his intended initiatives for the coming year and covered them very effectively.  He also called for across-the-aisle cooperation with the Democrats, although from the way the Democrats sat silently with sour faces it was clear that little cooperation will be forth-coming from them, even on issues that they supposedly support.

The issues he outlined include:

  • Immigration: Trump is absolutely right that the US has a defective immigration system that allows illegal immigrants to get away with it.  The round-up and release system, the chain immigration of extended families, and the lottery are all ways that criminal gangs and terrorists can and do infiltrate into the USA.  Further, the legal immigration system is not based on merit, as it was when I became a legal immigrant to the USA.  The ides that somehow the US should take the poor and dispossessed without any consideration of how they will support themselves is ridiculous.  I strongly oppose the idea that because we were once immigrants we should support all other immigrants, whether they are legal, illegal or purely economic migrants.  He also mentioned that we need the “wall” with Mexico to prevent illegal immigration.
  • Infrastructure: There is no doubt that the infrastructure of the USA, bridges, roads and ports are in a state of decay, having been ignored by previous administrations.  This is partly because some of these assets are also owned by the States.  So now a sharing program must be instituted that will enable the considerable funds required to be amassed, including private industry.
  • Foreign Aid: It makes no sense for the US to be providing billions of dollars in foreign aid when much of it goes to countries and entities, such as the Palestinians, who are consistently anti-American.  If the BDS movement wants to support the Palestinians, let them pay for their welfare from cradle to grave, the US taxpayer should not bear that burden.
  • Economy:  The US economy is thriving since Trump took office.  Some have questioned whether he can take credit for this, of course he can, he is the President.  The stock market has consistently reached new highs, and money and jobs are returning to the US after many decades of loss.   After introducing the largest tax reform in US history Trump is well on the way to increasing jobs and salaries to new highs.  It was symptomatic of the Democrats, that even the Black caucus members did not applaud his mention that Black unemployment is the lowest ever.

I enjoyed his introduction of many people who exemplified the American tradition of service and commitment.  Altogether his emphasis on elected officials being the servants of the American people was very effective.  In this speech Trump came across as Presidential, dedicated, sober and well-informed.  Not the crazy, unhinged, amateur idiot that a lot of Democrats and show business personalities would like us to believe.

Polish Complicity in the Shoah

There is currently a controversy raging over the degree of Polish complicity in the Shoah, the Holocaust of European Jews during WWII.   This was initiated by the passage of a law going through the Polish Parliament and supported by the Government of the ruling nationalist Law and Justice Party.  The Law seeks to absolve Poland from any official guilt in the murder of its Jewish citizens and to ensure that the many concentration camps that operated on Polish soil will not be termed “Polish Concentration Camps” but rather “Nazi or German Concentration Camps in Poland.”  The difference may be subtle but is important to Poles.

It is true that as a nation the Poles fought the Nazi Germans and that their Army was decimated at the beginning of WWII.  Subsequently Poland was divided and to a large extent opposed Nazi rule.  Polish President Andrzej Duda stated “there was no systematic support from the Polish side for the Holocaust.”  However, the Germans located most of the major camps, including the death camps, Auschwitz, Sobibor, Treblinka and many others in Poland for two reasons.  Poland had the largest Jewish population in Europe, over 3 million Jews, and also the Poles were renowned for their anti-Semitism.  Many pogroms had taken place in Poland from the Middle Ages through to WWI and therefore the Germans could be confidant that the local population would cooperate in the murder of its Jewish neighbors.  Of course, the Poles were only marginally more anti-Semitic than their neighbors, the Ukrainians, the Lithuanians and Hungarians and others. One might ask why, if these peoples were so virulently Jew-hating, why so many Jews continued to live there for so long?

I happen to be in a good position to have seen both sides of this argument.  I had a friend in London who died a few years ago named Jerzy Lando, who wrote a book called “Saved by my Face,” obviously his blond hair and blue eyes saved him.  He described how many Polish people helped him, how he was an officer in the Polish Home Army and fought in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 and how he managed to survive.  However, this is somewhat deceptive, because his father was a wealthy fabric manufacturer who had many Polish friends and who paid  them to hide and feed his son.  Also, when he was ordered to fight for the Home Army he carefully disguised the fact that he was Jewish, in case his fellow Poles murdered him.  Nevertheless, he was an active member of the British-Polish Friendship League.

I also have a friend, Eddie Bielawski, with whom I published a book entitled “Invisible Jews: Surviving the Holocaust in Poland,” which describes how his father and his brothers managed to hide a family of ten people for 3 years in order to survive the War.  During this time they were very clever and also lucky to be able to avoid being turned in and/or murdered by the vast majority of hostile anti-Semitic Poles.

The fact remains that over 3 million Jews lived in Poland before the War, and barely 50,000 survived until its end.  This terrible program of murder and destruction of Jewish men, women and children by the Germans could not have been accomplished without active and enthusiastic Polish participation.  That there were numerous massacres of defenceless Jews by Poles during and after WWII is an established fact.

New Appointment

Dear readers, I have been appointed a Visiting Professor for three years at the Chemistry Department of Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva.  I received the treasured yellow parking sticker that enables me to park anywhere on campus.  I will be pursuing research into the synthesis of chemically modified analogs of DNA in collaboration with a young member of the staff, Barak Akabeyov.  In addition, I will be helping him and others with writing grants and papers in English.  This will involve me in spending some time on the campus, which is about 10 mins drive from where we live.  I am telling you this because it might affect the time I have to write blog articles and might reduce my output.

I have been writing this blog, IsBlog, since about 2000, that is an amazing 18 years, with an almost daily posting (excluding Shabbat) since about 2013.  In fact I have posted 3,467 articles, amounting to ca. 1.6 million words.  I have already published a collection of my humorous and diy articles in a book entitled “Humorous Husbandry” that is available on Amazon.com.   One day I would like to publish a selection of my articles about Israel and the Middle East, but time so far does not permit that.  I originally said I would continue writing these articles until there is peace between Israel and the Arabs, but that may take forever.

In fact, I have now been a Visiting Professor at all three top Universities in Israel, Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and now Ben Gurion University.  I wonder how many people have had that distinction.  Also, I am now approaching the age of 80 years old (anyone who would like to see my abbreviated scientific cv can go to: http://jackcohenart.com/Scientific.html ).  I must say that when I started out as a young post-doctoral fellow at the Weizmann Institute in Israel in 1964 I never expected that I would still be engaged in active research at this advanced age.  One never knows what adventures lie ahead.

Primitive Islamic Societies

I noticed an item in the media that two female volunteers were tortured and murdered in Pakistan because they were administering polio vaccinations to children.  The report said that the Taliban stated that it was “unislamic” to vaccinate children.  A few months ago a Ghanaian doctor at a hospital in Karachi was shot dead for similar reasons.

In Afghanistan, apart from attacks on health workers, women are unable to run any form of business without threats by the Taliban and need constant bodyguards.  One older lady who ran a bakery in Kunduz that employed only women, swore that she would not give in, but soon was forced to flee.  Now men work in the bakery and keep guard on it too.   You might think that because the Taliban no longer control Kunduz or Afghanistan that this is only a problem of the extremists, but interviews with men on the street (women are fully covered in burkas and cannot talk to strange people) showed that most of them agree that according to the Koran women should not be allowed to run businesses.  Note also that in Afghanistan, after the supposed defeat of the Taliban, schools for girls are regularly fire bombed and female teachers are regularly murdered.

This is not only a problem for those supposedly backward societies, but these kind of attitudes permeate all Muslim societies, with only a few allowing “westernization” or “modernization.”  Saudi Arabian schools and universities are completely gender segregated, with only teachers of the same gender allowed, or they can teach via remote media.  Even in supposedly secular societies, such as Turkey, the current trend is back to Islam rather than accept foreign western influences.  I am always amused by the TV ads for Doha and Dubai that show them as so modern, yet away from the cameras the same restrictions on women apply.  It is a traditional part of Islamic culture to keep women in their place, under control.  They are about 100 years at least behind the West and they are losing the incredibly valuable input of half their population.  It keeps their societies more violent, less civilized and backward.  Why don’t the liberals of the BDS movement campaign about this?

International Holocaust Day

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, that commemorates the liberation by the Allies of the concentration camp at Auschwitz during WWII, we should reflect on the causes of that great tragedy for the Jewish people.  Certainly the overwhelming cause was the deeply ingrained hatred of Jews that permeated European societies.  This had its roots in Christianity and racial animosity.  There was a prevalent belief among the competitive European national tribes (Germans, Hungarians, Lithuanian, French, Poles, etc.) that the Jews were an untrustworthy and vulnerable group that could be blamed for their problems.  The complexity of the situation has been analyzed in numerous books, of which I highly recommend “The Pity of It All: A Portrait of Jews in Germany 1743-1933” by Amos Elon (2002).

However, in any objective analysis of the then contemporary situation one must conclude that part of the blame lay with the Jews themselves.  We must face the unpalatable facts.  This is not an attempt to transfer the blame to the victim, that has so often been the case in the past, or to ignore the many acts of Jewish defiance, resistance and heroism, for example described in the book “They Fought Back: The Story of Jewish Resistance in Nazi Germany” by Yuri Suhl (1967).  Such groups as “The White Rose” and the Bielsky Brothers have been documented and many found ways to survive under extreme circumstances, see for example “Invisible Jews: Surviving the Holocaust in Poland,” by Eddie Bielowski and Jack Cohen (2017).  But, in fact there was no organized Jewish resistance on what we might call a national or tribal level.

The reasons for this are of course complex.  One major reason was that the Jews were called disloyal by other national groups, and to have organized resistance to them would have confirmed that belief.  This is a common reaction by minorities to accusations of disloyalty, as shown by Japanese Americans during WWII in California (although surprisingly not in Hawaii) where they accepted being transferred to concentration camps (although they were not destined to be murdered).

The Jews were a “liberal” people in the sense that they depended on the brotherhood of man as a defense against precisely the kind of fate that awaited them in Europe.  One of the major factors that inured them to their situation was their religion.  Judaism, like all religions, was an opiate, it emphasized pacifism over aggression, acceptance of fate as a manifestation of God’s will.  Due to their minority status in every country, Judaism and Jewish society became especially and unavoidably complaisant.  The general rubric was “don’t rock the boat,” don’t stick your head above the parapet, “shtil.”  Many will argue that it was impossible under the circumstances for the Jews to organize effective resistance, but the fact of the matter remains that throughout Europe no established Jewish community organization set up an armed resistance group.

A German once told me that the Jews suffered because “when you live among wolves, you must act like a wolf.”  This is the Darwinian view of the situation, “the survival of the fittest.”  In the many nature films seen on TV these days, nature is not a benign and peaceful kingdom, but one in which survival is always at stake in the most violent of ways.  A male lion gets to mate with the females if he can defend himself against all competitors, but in return he must protect his females and his offspring.  Otherwise they will be taken away from him and his cubs killed.  Not all species act like this, some pair off and mate for life.  But, whether or not this Darwinian view is true, the Jews who survived learnt the terrible lesson of the Holocaust.  To be passive in one’s defense is a death sentence.  To accept one’s own national or tribal status and protect it at all costs in this world is essential.  That is the lesson that the Jewish people in their homeland took to heart and hence the IDF is a recognized and fearsome force.